Growth at Bellingham airport expected to level off this year

Work on new Holiday Inn to begin in March

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 9, 2014 

AIRPORT SECURITY

TSA officers screen passengers in the new TSA area at the Bellingham International Airport Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - After several years of significant growth and expansion, 2014 is expected to be a relatively quiet year in terms of new activity at Bellingham International Airport.

With the multi-phased $38 million airport expansion scheduled to be completed in February, travelers soon will not have to worry about construction zones in the airport or in the parking lots.

The only significant construction in the area this year will be the new Holiday Inn hotel. That project near the Pacific Cataract Laser Institute is expected to get started in March and be completed by June 2015, said Dan Zenk, aviation director for the Port of Bellingham.

It also should be a quiet year in terms of new flights out of the airport. Zenk doesn't expect any new airlines to enter this market in 2014, partly because of changes currently taking place in the airline industry.

Airlines are in a state of consolidation right now, and companies are studying how full are flights at different airports to determine where to put in planes, Zenk said. While Bellingham is experiencing strong demand for a number of flights and could expand to new destinations, that's not something airlines will go after in 2014.

"I do anticipate some growth opportunities in 2015. I think it'll take about a year for airlines to get through this (period of consolidation)," Zenk said.

With no new airlines expected to enter the market, passenger traffic should remain flat this year. Last year 595,074 people flew out of the Bellingham airport, a 4.3 percent increase compared to 2012. That's significantly slower than the double-digit growth posted in recent years.

Zenk expects traffic out of Bellingham to rise about 3 percent this year. He doesn't believe this market has reached a saturation point, however.

"If we have more airlines going to underserved areas, I think the airport would continue to grow," Zenk said.

Along with the flights currently in place, Frontier Airlines is planning to continue its seasonal service between Bellingham and Denver starting May 17 and going through September, according to Zenk.

Another recent addition is year-round nonstop service between Bellingham and Portland, Ore., by Alaska Airlines.

Later this month Allegiant Air is discontinuing its direct flights to Reno, Nev., and next month it is starting its seasonal service between Bellingham and San Diego, according to its website.

When airlines begin looking for new opportunities again, Zenk believes they will find a good one in Bellingham for eastbound routes. The recent success of the seasonal Frontier flights to Denver is evidence the demand is there.

"Eastbound flights are one of those areas that is being underserved here," he said.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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